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With international travel now open and the traffic light system in effect, you might be planning a much-needed getaway.
But while video calling friends and family may have become second nature, you’ll need to be careful when using your phone in some green travel destinations abroad, to avoid racking up a huge fee.
We take a look at how to save on roaming costs in EU and non-EU destinations.
Data roaming in the EU/EEA: Iceland and Gibraltar
If you’re staying in the EU and travelling the current green list destinations Iceland or Gibraltar, things are clear cut.
Despite the UK officially leaving the EU, most providers still have no plans to stop offering ‘roam like at home’ (which allows you to use your UK allowance abroad). So for the time being at least, you can use the minutes, messages and data included in your monthly bundle at no extra cost.
Most providers do have a fair usage policy if you have a high data package, so make sure you check what that is before travelling. Also bear in mind that you could end up paying out of bundle charges if you use it all up.
Find out more in our guide to EU roaming and international calling.
Where I can go on holiday abroad? Read more about traffic light red, amber and green countries.
Data roaming outside the EU
Roaming outside the EU can be expensive, and with popular locations such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand currently on the list you’ll need to be careful if you’re travelling further afield – assuming, of course, you’re allowed in.
- Streaming music: Streaming just one song on Spotify at normal quality in Singapore with an O2 Sim can cost more than £20. With an EE Sim, it could cost £6 a day, although you would get access to 150MB of mobile data to use in 24 hours.
- Finding your way home: Using Google Maps for five minutes in Brunei with iD Mobile could cost £4.80, or just 50p with SMARTY.
- Saving your photos: Uploading one 2MB photo to social media with Lebara Mobile in Australia would cost just under £30 – it would be included for free as part of Three’s ‘Go Roam’ offering.
Three tends to be one of the better networks when it comes to non-EU roaming. Go Roam is available on all packages above 4GB, although other providers such as O2 and Vodafone also offer inclusive roaming with selected high data deals.
Roaming costs can vary a lot between providers and countries so it is vitally important you check the costs wherever you are going.
How to cut your data roaming costs
If you are planning to make a trip this summer, there are some tactics you can employ to cut your data roaming costs.
Sign up for a travel roaming add-on
Some providers have a roaming passport add-on in certain popular destinations, where you can either access a fixed allowance or your UK allowance for a daily fee.
For example, Vodafone charges £6 a day to access your UK allowance of data, minutes and texts in 104 destinations, whereas O2 charges £4.99 for 120 mins and texts as well as unlimited data (although O2 reserves the right to apply traffic management and speed restrictions).
All these add-ons have different clauses and restrictions such as what counts as a daily charging period and how much data you get.
Bear in mind that some add-ons can be automatically triggered by any data used by your device, including background data for updating social media feeds and similar activities. So turn off mobile data until you are ready to use it. Check out the roaming options on your provider’s website to see which could be good to enable before you travel.
Check your data cap
As per regulations, all providers that charge you for data you’ve used have to place a data roaming cap to avoid customers getting excessive roaming charges. This cap is set at around £43 (there is a small variation among providers) which, as we’ve explained above, can be reached very easily if you’re not careful.
You can request that your provider removes this cap, but this is risky territory, and could leave you racking up potentially hundreds of pounds with ease.
Ultimately, make sure you check your provider’s roaming charges and T&Cs before you travel.
Get data-savvy with your mobile phone use
A little data can go a long way if you know how to set up your phone correctly, and do a little preparation in advance. Changing data settings can ensure you don’t end up paying roaming fees without realising. Downloading important apps, documents or media in advance, and using wi-fi where available can also be a big help.
Read our guide on how to prepare your mobile phone for holidays for more.
Choose the right mobile provider
Some providers offer better deals than others when it comes to roaming, even to the same destination.
GiffGaff is another good-value provider – it costs just 20p in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, but can be more expensive – for example £5 in the Faroe Islands.
If you love getting away, it pays to find a provider that offers cheap rates to your favourite destinations. Our guide on how to switch mobile provider shows just how easy it is.
At Which? Switch Mobile, you can find a wide range of deals on low-cost roaming providers, including one-month contract deals that can be ideal as a temporary solution to save money when on your holidays.
Browse the best Sim-only and contract phone deals on Which? Switch Mobile to find the perfect Sim for your travels.